Arab cinema

The Arab cinemas are both the product and the expression of a long and unresolved struggle for the control of the image, for the power to define identity. That identity is clearly rooted in the crossroads of culture of the region, extending as it does between Europe and Black Africa, between the Atlantic and the Arabian Gulf, but also between the city and countryside and desert ... between a colonial past and a nominally independent present." 
- film critic Mariam Rosen


History and development

The early years of Arab cinema
From the first Egyptian film in 1925

The new Arab cinema
From the 1960s onwards ... films with a social conscience

The struggle to be seen
Censored films, exiled directors - and the problems of reaching a mass audience

Moroccan cinema
A timeline of key developments from 1897 to 2007 (in French)

Youssef Chahine 
A page about the great Egyptian film director


Film resources

IMDb – Internet Movie Database
This database has details of Arab films, directors, actors, etc. Films can be searched by country as well as by titles and keywords.

Arab Film Distribution 
Based in the United States, Arab Film Distribution robably has the largest selection of Arab films for home viewing or showing to audiences.

The 10 best Arab films 
Omar al-Qattan. The Guardian, 6 July 2013 

Five beautiful films that finally give Middle Eastern women the voice they deserve  
Chelsea Hawkins. arts.mic, 1 November 2013

Films set in the Middle East 
Wikipedia lists

Hollywood Arabs 
How western cinema portrays the Middle East


Articles about Arab cinema

The rise and fall of Moroccan cinema
Nadir Bouhmouch and Elias Terrass. Al-Jazeera, 17 November 2017 

Bringing the horror film industry to the Middle East 
Alexander Schinis, Muftah, 1 August 2016

Islam in Western Cinema
Roger Ebert. Far Flung Correspondents, August 2016

Al-Jadid magazine 
Al-Jadid is a US-based magazine about Arab culture. Its website has a collection of articles about films. The magazine also publishes film reviews (for subscribers only).

Popcorn revolution in Saudi Arabia? Kingdom mulls the return of cinemas 
Brian Whitaker, 11 November 2014 

Wadjda, Saudi Arabia's first female film, is country's Oscar entry 
Xan Brooks. The Guardian, 16 September 2013 

Secret cinema gently subverts Saudi Arabia's puritanism 
David Batty. The Guardian, 15 October 2012 

Saudi Arabia: Ceci n'est pas un cinema 
Brian Whitaker, 2 December 2010

Filmmaker in the land of no cinema 
Caryle Murphy. The National, 13 July 2010

Cut! The Jeddah film festival is stopped 
Brian Whitaker, 20 July 2009

Cartoons herald return of cinema to Saudi Arabia 
Brian Whitaker. The Guardian, 19 October 2005

The legacy of Salah Abu Seif, master of realism in Egyptian cinema
Ibrahim al-Aris
Al-Jadid magazine, Vol. 3, No. 15 (February 1997)

Father of neo-realism in Egyptian cinema passes away
With the death of Atef al-Tayeb, Egyptian cinema lost one of its prominent figures. Al-Jadid magazine, Vol.1, No. 1, (December 1995).


Film-book combinations

Here is a collection of YouTube videos of Arab films based on classic novels, selected by the ArabLit website. The films can be viewed online.

The Sixth Day, 1986
Directed by Youssef Chahine, based on a novel by the Lebanese author Andrée Chedid.

The Impossible (al-Moustahil), 1965 
Directed by Hussein Kamal, based on Mostafa Mahmoud’s 1960 novel of the same name.

A Touch of Fear (Shay' min al-Khawf), 1969)
Based on a novella of the same name by Egyptian “Knight of the Arabic Novel” Tharwat Abaza. 

Miramar, 1969 
Directed by Kamal el-Sheikh and based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Naguib Mahfouz. 

The Mountain (al-Jabal), 1965
Directed by Khalil Shawki and based on Fathi Ghanem’s debut novel, published in 1958. 

The Open Door, 1964
Directed by Henry Barakat, based on the 1960 novel by pioneering author-activist Latifa al-Zayyat. 

The Water Carrier is Dead (Al-Saqqa Mat), 1977
Directed by Salah Abu Seif, based on the novel by Yusuf al-Sibai.

The Collar and the Bracelet (al-Tuq wal Iswar), 1986
Directed by Khairy Beshara, based on a novella by Yahya Taher Abdallah

Al-Ard (The Land), 1970.
Directed by Youssef Chahine, based on a 1954 novel by Abd al-Rahman al-Sharqawi.

Al-Haram (The Sinners), 1965.
Directed by Henry Barakat, based on a novel by Yusuf Idris

Ana Hurra (I’m Free), 1958.
Directed by Salah Abu Seif, based on a novel by Ihsan Abdel Quddous

Bidaya wa Nihaya (A Beginning and an End), 1960.
Directed by Salah Abu Seif, based on the novel by Naguib Mahfouz

Al-Khubz Al-Hafi (For Bread Alone), 2005.
Directed by Rachid Benhadj, based on the novel by Mohamed Choukri

Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun), 1999.
Directed by Yousry Nasrallah, based on the novel by Elias Khoury

Al-Makhdu'oun (The Dupes / The Duped / The Deceived), 1972.
Directed by Tawfiq Saleh, based on Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun

Yawmiyat Na'ib fil-Ariaf Kamil (Diary of a Country Prosecutor), 1968.
Directed by Tawfiq Saleh, based on a novel by Tawfiq al-Hakim

Tharthara fawq an-Nil (Adrift on the Nile), 1971.
Directed by Hussein Kamal, based on a novel by Naguib Mahfouz

Du'a' al-Karwan (A Nightingale’s Prayer), 1959.
Directed by Henry Bakarat, based on a novel by Taha Hussein

Al-Kit Kat (Kit Kat), 1991.
Directed by Daoud Abdel Sayed, based on the novel The Heron by Ibrahim Aslan

Al-Muwatan al-Masri (The Egyptian Citizen), 1991.
Directed by Salah Abu Seif, based on Yusuf al-Qa’id’s award-winning novel, War in the Land of Egypt

Qandil Umm Hashem (The Lamp of Umm Hashem), 1968.
Directed by Kamal Attiya, inspired by a novella by Yahia Haqqi


Film festivals

Arab Film Festival 
Established in 1996, the Arab Film Festival is the largest independent annual showcase of Arab films and filmmakers in the United States. The festival has an international standing and is considered one of the most important Arab film festivals outside the Arab world. It aims "to enhance understanding of Arab culture and provide alternative representations of Arabs that contradict stereotypes frequently encountered in the American mass media while fostering a space for independent Arab filmmakers to screen their work for the public".

Cairo International Film Festival 
Held annually since 1976 (except for 2011 and 2013), this is the oldest international film festival in the Arab world..

Carthage Film Festival 
(Journees Cinematographiques de Carthage) 
Held annually in Tunis since 2014 (previously biannually alternating with the Carthage Theatre).

Marrakech International Film Festival 
Held annually in Marrakech, Morocco, since 2001

Dubai International Film Festival 
An annual festival established by Dubai Media City in 2004 with the aim of showcasing contemporary and classic global cinema.

Beirut International Film Festival 
Held annually in Beirut since 1997.